Thursday, October 28, 2010

Psychological health and stress

Its not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it. - Hans Selye 
When we react to stressors, a wide variety of cognitive and emotional responses can occur. Examples of cognitive responses are concentration problems, indecision, forgetfulness, and sensitivity to criticism, self-critical thoughts, and rigid attitudes. Examples of emotional responses are nervousness, tension, irritability and anger. Stress contributes not only physical ill health but also psychological ill health. Taking care of our psychological health is very important. We need to learn how to preserve and promote psychological health to cope more effectively with our stressful life situations.

Psychological health is dependent on the fit between the entire configuration of a person's characteristics and potentials with those of the environments in which the person functions, such as family, job, school, church, and recreation.   Psychological health is about doing things that give you a sense of enjoyment and achievement, holding helpful and balanced attitudes toward life, and building satisfying relationships.

A theoretical model of psychological health encompasses 6 distinct dimensions
1.     Autonomy,
2.     Environmental Mastery,
3.     Personal Growth,
4.     Positive Relations with Others,
5.     Purpose in Life,
6.     Self-Acceptance

Psychological health includes
1. Emotional health
Learning the skills needed to handle emotional problems will give you a foundation of psychological health. Everyone, including people who are emotionally healthy, has problems. Emotionally healthy people are able to adjust to and solve problems, and in doing so they help others as well as themselves to get satisfaction out of life. Mood is central to psychological health, and disturbances in mood are related to subsequent psychological maladjustment.
2. Spiritual health
Learn to love. Cultivate the skill of loving each other and ourselves.
3. Social health
People are able to coexist peacefully in communities with opportunities for advancement.

Psychological health produce varied outcomes including
(a) Reduced stress, strain, anxiety, absenteeism, turnover intentions, and turnover;
(b) Improved physical health, psychological health, emotional stability, adjustment, goal-setting behavior, coping, adaptation, attitudes toward learning, and vocational choice; and
(c) Increased creativity, motivation, performance, occupational success, commitment, tenure, satisfaction, and morale.

Positive psychology: psychological health
Positive psychology expands our view of psychological health beyond the absence of symptoms and disorders, and provides hope that a healthy, fulfilled, and productive life is possible for all.

Primary enhancement of psychological health suggests that our relationships are crucial for life satisfaction. Indeed, for most people, interpersonal relationships with lovers, family, and good friends provide the most powerful sources of well-being and life satisfaction. Beyond the relationship with one's mate, primary enhancement satisfactions also can come from other relationships, such as family and friends. Arranging living circumstances to be within close physical proximity to kin also can produce the social supports that are so crucial.

Secondary enhancement of psychological health enables people to maximize their pleasures by building on their preexisting positive mental health. Peak psychological moments often involve important human connections, such as the birth of child, a wedding, the graduation of a loved one, or perhaps the passionate and companionate love of one's mate. There are psychological group experiences the purpose of which is to help people to achieve the extreme pleasures of in-depth relating with others.

Rational emotive behavioural theory: criteria of psychological health 

Rational emotive behavioural theory also puts forward a number of criteria of psychological health. These include the following:

1. Self-interest: Sensible and emotionally healthy people tend to be primarily interested in themselves and to put their own interests at least a little above the interests of others. They sacrifice themselves to some degree for those for whom they care but not overwhelmingly or completely.

2. Social interest: Social interest is usually rational and self-helping because most people choose to live and enjoy themselves in a social group or community. If they do not act morally, protect the rights of others, and abet social survival, it is unlikely that they will create the kind of world in which they themselves can live comfortably and happily.

3. Self-direction: Healthy people tend mainly to assume responsibility for their own lives while simultaneously preferring to cooperate with others. They do not need or demand considerable support or succoring from others, though they may prefer and work for this.

4. High frustration tolerance: Rational individuals give both themselves and others the right to be wrong. Even when they intensely dislike their own and others' behavior, they refrain from damning themselves or others, as persons, for unacceptable or obnoxious behavior. They are capable of changing the changeable and accepting those they cannot, and having the wisdom to know the difference between the two.

5. Flexibility: Healthy and mature individuals tend to be flexible in their thinking, open to change, and unbigoted and pluralistic in their view of other people. They do not make rigid, invariant rules for themselves and others.

6. Acceptance of uncertainty: Healthy men and women tend to acknowledge and accept the idea that we seem to live in a world of probability and chance where absolute certainties do not and probably never will exist. They realize that it is often fascinating and exciting and definitely not horrible to live in this kind of probabilistic and uncertain world. They enjoy a good degree of order but do not demands to know exactly what dies future will bring or what will happen to them.

7. Commitment to creative pursuits: Most people tend to be headier and happier when they are vitally absorbed in something outside themselves and preferably have at least one powerful creative interest, as well as some major human involvement, that they structure a good part of their life around it.

8. Scientific thinking: Non-disturbed individuals tend to be more objective, realistic, and scientific than more disturbed ones. They are able to feel deeply and act concertedly, but they tend to regulate their emotions and actions by reflecting on them and evaluating their consequences in terms of the extent to which they lead to the attainment of short-term and long-term goals.

9. Self-acceptance: Healthy people are usually glad to be alive and accept themselves just because they are alive and have some capacity to enjoy themselves. They refuse to measure their intrinsic worth by their extrinsic achievements or by what others think of them. They try to avoid rating themselves-- their totality or their being. They attempt to enjoy rather than to prove themselves

10. Risk-taking: Emotionally healthy people tend to take a fair amount of risk and to try to do what they want to do, even when there is a good chance that they may fail. They tend to be adventurous but not foolhardy.
11. Long-range hedonism: Well-adjusted people tend to seek both the pleasures of the moment and those of the future and do not often court future pain for present gain. They are hedonistic, that is, happiness-seeking and pain avoidant, but they assume that they will probably live for quite a few years and that they had therefore better think of both today and tomorrow and not be obsessed with immediate gratification.

12. Non-utopianism: Healthy people accept the fact that Utopias are probably unachievable and that they are never likely to get everything they want and to avoid all pain. They refuse to strive unrealistically for total joy, happiness, or perfection or for total lack of anxiety, depression, self-downing, and hostility.

13. Self-responsibility for own emotional disturbance: Healthy individuals tend to accept a great deal of responsibility for their own disturbance rather than defensively blame others or social conditions for their self-defeating thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Creating and reinforcing psychological health is the goal in successfully living a balanced lifestyle. Learn to preserve and promote psychological health!.

Friday, July 30, 2010

An activity based training module for developing coping skills- My research

             I have recently submitted my research report in the area of Health Psychology, particularly enhancing stress coping skills among college students. I have developed an activity-based module to enhance students stress coping skills.

          In order to prevent stress related problems it is necessary to improve the competencies of students, making them more able to cope with whatever difficulties life might bring. Some of the competencies that seem to relate to stress coping skills are 1) anticipate or detect potential stressors and identifying functional, dysfunctional coping; 2) taking responsibility for one’s behaviour and its outcome; 3) building satisfying relationship with others; 4) develop effective cognitive problem solving and decision making skills. According to proactive coping theory the individual is seen as striving for improvement, is capable of making things happen. Resource management is an important facet of proactive coping in that students can acknowledge and utilize information, advice, practical assistance and emotional support from others. Those students who are unskilled in these areas might experience and avoid stress. Training of these skills makes the students more competent and coping efficiency is maximized.

          The first phase of training helps the students reconceptualize the nature of their stress and coping. This phase focuses on the reappraisal of the events using cognitive strategies to endure unavoidable everyday stressors. Students can be thought to take a non-catastrophizing, and viewing as a challenge rather than threat perspective when faced with stress. Thus, the replacement of unproductive thoughts and actions with coping strategies are important sets of skills. In the next phase, the students learn to use specific modified ways of coping skills. Contemplation about a variety of possible alternatives by comparing their possible outcome and its effectiveness, which include brainstorming, analyzing problems and resources, and generating hypothetical plan of action carried out in this phase. Role playing techniques used to promote smooth execution of the newly learned coping skills. The final phase involves the application of coping skills in a systematic way to every day stressful events. The generalization and maintenance of coping skills are encouraged by helping the students in each session. Throughout training, students are involved as a collaborator in developing, implementing and evaluating the variety of coping skills.

          Figure -1 depicts some of the major components in the stress coping programme. This model somewhat simplified and provide a framework for understanding the components of enhancing proactive coping skills and self-efficacy.

Figure -1 Schematic diagram of the programme

The 3'A' model 
Assume responsibility and
          This training was conducted throughout the weekdays over a month. During each session, students were given relevant handout and worksheet to practice.  Handout provides a tangible resource for them to consult between session and especially after training is completed. Worksheet helps the students gain insight into their own levels of stress and coping. This programme is based on primary prevention principle as they are aimed towards masses of students.
General Overview of the Sessions
          The group members may bring up issues related to their   day-to-day events such as upcoming exam, interview, projects, relationship problems or mastering a new task, recent failure and disappointment. Each session will introduce some new concepts, which include an exercise to be completed. The content of the session are as follows (Annexure -4, and 5),
1. Knowledge – theoretical input
2. Skills – teach specific skills
3. Practice – Role-play/ worksheets
4. Feedback and discussion
          Although organization of the sessions must be structured, participants’ real life problem should not be ignored. Otherwise, they may view programme as irrelevant to their present needs. Participants bring their real life issues to their role-play and practice exercises. Role-play is a critical part of this programme and hence more time is allocated to it. Active participation, modeling and practice with corrective feedback are the most effective ways to modify and build self-efficacy and create long lasting behaviour change. Each session participants will be given relevant handouts. To encourage the participants to workout practice exercises outside the session, the researcher may announce some attractive gifts for the participants who fill the worksheet properly.  At the end of each session, instruction regarding the practice exercises and instruction regarding the next session will be given.

Friday, March 12, 2010


1. Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)                   
The goal of stress inoculation training is to teach people to identify and anticipate stress-provoking situations, and defuse potential stress by rehearsing thoughts and actions to be implemented in actual stressful situations. This rehearsal of newly learned skills equips the individual to deal more effectively with a wide range of situations that have been potentially be stressful. SIT include, (1) Teaching clients the role of cognitions and emotions in stress and stress management. (2) Training them in fundamental problem-solving skills such as problem definition, anticipation of consequences and evaluation of feedback. (3) Providing instruction in and rehearsal of coping strategies such as relaxation, communication skills, social support building, attention focusing, and positive self-evaluation.     (4) Gradually increasing behavioural assignments to strengthen newly acquired coping skills. The specific coping skills may include emotional self-regulation, self-soothing and acceptance, relaxation training, self-instructional training, cognitive restructuring, problem-solving, interpersonal communication skills training, attention diversion procedures, using social support systems and fostering meaning-related activities. (5) The final phase of application and follow through provides opportunities for the clients to apply the variety of coping skills across increasing levels of stressors.
2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive therapy assumes that people can develop automatic erroneous thought patterns and beliefs of which they are unaware and that they consequently think and behave in ways that are irrational. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a major component of stress management programs and of interventions for acute and chronic traumatic stress disorder. Many people who have a chronic illness or psychological problem see themselves as incapable of changing their situation. CBT directly challenges people to alter the way they think about themselves, the way they behave, and the way they deal with problems and their illnesses. Therapy and homework are designed to heighten the awareness of behaviors, feelings, and thoughts associated with specific stressors, situations, or conditions. Then, the person is encouraged to evaluate the pros and cons of his or her attitudes and beliefs regarding the stressor and to offer positive interpretations or cognitive reappraisals of situations with the intention of challenging the negative thought pattern. The person, therefore, learns to actively seek new ways of perceiving or appraising situations that are less damaging to their psychological and physical well-being.

3. Mindfulness-Based Therapies
The goals of mindfulness-based therapies are to teach people how to manage everyday stress and pain and take responsibility for their well-being. Mindfulness involves moment-by-moment awareness of what a person is experiencing, such as paying close attention to breathing, noises, sensations in the body, inner feelings and thoughts, and our reactions to specific situations. Mindful awareness involves meditation exercises and is often coupled with stretching to help attain a mindful state. The person observes the moment-by-moment sensations, cognitions, and emotions without judging whether they are bad or good, important or trivial, or sick or healthy (nonjudgmental observation). The person is encouraged to recognize and accept his or her limits and body, as opposed to pushing and pulling at his or her physical and psychological limits. The goal is for the person to experience a new relationship with the mental or physical condition instead of doing the same old catastrophizing, avoiding, or other maladaptive coping strategy. Mindfulness-based approaches have been applied to various physical and emotional problems and have received empirical support.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Stress research updates

1. Short-Term Stress Enhances Anti-Tumor Activity
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have shown that, at least in laboratory mice, bouts of relatively short-term stress can boost the immune system and protect against one type of cancer. Furthermore, the beneficial effects of this occasional angst seem to last for weeks after the stressful situation has ended.short-lived stress may enhance anti-tumor activity. But chronic stress has the opposite effect taxing the immune system and increasing susceptibility to disease.
more details of the study please follow the link below
2. Partner Relationship As A Buffer Against Stress
"The relationship reduces the negative effects of this kind of stress on our health. But poor relationships will amplify the negative effects,"
The body needs to recover
After having been exposed to stress, the body must recover and recharge itself. If there is no opportunity to recover because the work doesn't allow for breaks and lunches, the body's reserves are emptied, and poor health ensues. The same principle applies when a person takes work home, frequently works overtime or has recurring quarrels and problems in his or her relationship.
The effects of the sometimes small but recurring stress situations of everyday life sneak up on a person, who at first does not even notice them. The person under stress adapts and tries to accommodate the demands and changes he or she face, until one day, there is such a great imbalance, that massive efforts are needed just to manage everyday life.
"The risk is that we don't realize things are not right until we get to that point. Our work and required social interactions demand much too much of us. Our relationship is strained to the breaking point, and we've used the last drop of the energy reserves we once had." According to Ann-Christine Andersson Arntén, not taking time to recover can lead to impaired physical and mental health and cognitive and concentration problems, which reduce performance and problem-solving ability.
more details of the study please follow the link below